Education: What is an Appellate Practice?
December 1, 2015
What is an appeal? Ball Eggleston
All cases are initially tried at the trial court level. In each and every case, the losing party has the right to appeal his or her case to a higher court. This can include intermediate appellate courts, state supreme courts, or even the United States Supreme Court. In most cases, the attorney seeks to identify and correct errors of the trial court judges. If the appeal is successful, the appellate court may overturn the trial court’s decision. Appellate decisions often have statewide significance. For example, an appellate decision may change the way a statute is interpreted and applied.
What is the difference between trial court and appellate court?
As mentioned previously, trial court is where all cases start. In trial court, both sides present evidence to argue their side of what happened. There are three main differences between trial courts and appellate courts:
- Witnesses – Most of the evidence comes from witnesses (people who either have some connection to the situation that occurred or are experts in the subject matter) and exhibits (documents, pictures, clothing, weapons, forensics, etc.). This is used to persuade a jury in a jury trial or a judge in a bench trial. However, in appellate court, there are no witnesses, and the attorneys cannot present new evidence. Instead of arguing about the facts, attorneys on appeal are concerned with questions of law. They must construct an argument using the existing record and similar court cases to determine whether or not the law was applied correctly. This requires review and analysis of trial records, research on case law, and constructing persuasive arguments in the form of written briefs.
- Judges – At the trial court level, there is only one judge. He or she decides what evidence to consider and which party will ultimately win the case. However, in the State of Indiana, appellate courts have multiple judges. Case before the Indiana Court of Appeals are reviewed by a panel of three judges. In the Supreme Court, there is one group of five justices.
- Juries – A jury is sometimes used in trial courts to determine a case. A group of citizens are selected to be on a jury and must listen to facts presented by both sides and then make a decision based on what is presented. For example, in a criminal case, the jury must decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the charges. In a civil trial (divorce, personal injury, business law, etc.) the jury decides if the defendant is liable or not liable. However, at the appellate level, there is no jury. The outcome of an appeal is decided only by an appellate judge.
The appellate court has the power to overrule the decision of the trial court. However, the trial court’s decision is reversed only if a significant legal error was made in the trial court. Appellate decisions are solely based on how the law should be applied and interpreted.
What is an appeal?
In some cases, one party may think that the trial court made a wrong decision. If the party wishes to challenge that decision, an appeal is filed. In a criminal case, the defendant has the right to appeal his conviction and sentence. In a civil case, either side can appeal the verdict. The party that is bringing the appeal is called the “appellant,” and the party responding the appeal is the “appellee.”
During the appellate process, legal arguments are presented. A written appellate brief must be filed by counsel for each party, which is the main form of persuasion. The appellant, who lost in the trial court, uses this brief to argue why the decision made in the trial court incorrectly applied the law. The party who won will argue why the decision was correct. Both parties must use applicable case law and statutes to support their arguments.
The judges review the record for legal errors that are significant enough to change the decision made by the trial court. For example, in a criminal appeal, the judges may reduce a sentence, order a new trial, or toss out a conviction altogether. In the matter of civil appeals, judges can reverse a decision or reduce the damages that are to be paid. In every appeal, the appellate court must release a written opinion discussing the issues in the case and explaining its decision.
After a decision has been made by the Court of Appeals in the state or federal system, the losing party may appeal that decision to the state supreme court or the United States Supreme Court. Unlike the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court is not required to decide the case.
At Ball Eggleston, we understand the exceptional amount of skill involved in appellate practice. We also recognize that not all attorneys have experience in appellate advocacy. Our group accepts referrals from outside attorneys when they need assistance in defending a favorable decision or overturning an unfavorable one.
Contact Ball Eggleston
If you have questions or are looking to appeal a court decision, contact our office to schedule a personal consultation with an attorney in our Appellate Practice Group.
Ball Eggleston is located at 201 Main Street, Suite 810 P.O. Box 1535 Lafayette, IN 47902. Contact Ball Eggleston by phone at (765) 742‑9046, by fax at (765) 742‑1966, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information, find Ball Eggleston online at ballegg.local. You can also find us on Facebook.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation.